The 2003 Lancia Fulvia Concept Should Have Been Built
As of this writing, Lancia – one of the greatest automakers of all time, with a history of racing success and great driver cars – currently produces just one vehicle. The Lancia Ypsilon is a welcoming little sedan that has been on sale since 2011 and is powered by a range of small eensy engines, including a 0.9-liter inline-two. This situation comes after several years of parent company FCA forcing rebadged Chrysler products on Continental buyers, including the Lancia Thema (nee Chrysler 300). Such cynical badge jobs mocked the brand’s heritage, but it was not to be. At the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show, the company presented the Fulvia Concept, a tribute to one of the company’s most refined cars and a triumph of the era’s fascination with neo-retro design. .
From a Fulvia concept perspective, the production was a slam dunk. While the styling was exceptional, taking all the right cues from the mid-1960s Fulvia coupe without being derivative, it was based on humble mechanics that were already plying European roads in the form of the second-generation Fiat Punto, a humble subcompact have more sporty HGT versions). There were rumors that a 140-horsepower 1.8-liter engine could find its way into the production car, a lot of juice for something that in some ways resembled a sub-scale Honda Prelude.
Front-wheel drive wasn’t a hindrance to the concept either. The original Fulvia coupe used a series of V-4 engines to drive the front wheels. So a modern FWD Fulvia was very much in the spirit of the original. The same goes for the shape and overall concept of the interior, with this large splash of beautiful wood covering the width of the dashboard and reminiscent of but not singular the original.
At the time, observers gave the Lancia Concept a good idea of production. The concept certainly has elements that wouldn’t have survived the jump, but it definitely presented a glimpse of a workable car based on repairable mechanics. Unfortunately for Lancia, and for all of us, the financial situation of her parent company – at best precarious – made her dead on arrival.
We only have one question left: could it have turned out differently? Judging by Lancia’s sad trajectory in the years since the concept’s launch, there probably was no way forward. But even if unlikely, it’s nice to imagine a world where, in addition to the Fiat 124, American FCA dealers also had a sporty compact coupe for sale. At least the Fulvia concept remains an example of how to go retro the right way, providing a solid blueprint for future car designers as they reinvent the great cars of the past.